I am the mother of a three-year-old son, Ryan, and a Los Angeles public school teacher for ten years.
I can’t do one without the other. Can’t mother without teaching, can’t teach without mothering. Here, I offer my A to Z’s of mothering and teaching.
A - All or nothing. There is no half-way, sort of, or kind of. I mother and teach with 100% passion.
B - Books. Each student receives a new paperback novel, as a December holiday gift and an end-of-the-year gift, and my son receives books for every occasion.
C - Chocolate. Sometimes for the kids, sometimes for me. Things don’t seem quite as challenging when you’re savoring something chocolately and licking your fingers clean.
D - Demanding. Physically, emotionally, mentally. By the end of the day, I’ve given my all to my loves, both my son and my students. I am a teacher doing my best to keep my students on task and engaged. I am a teacher who keeps a notepad in the bathroom at home to jot down ideas and reminders for the following day. I am a dancing-singing Mommy; a mommy who calls home at lunch to check on my son. My jobs as mother and teacher have no breaks and no “off time.” I never stop planning, never stop worrying.
E - Exhausting. If I’m up late with Ryan, I return to work tired, lacking my usual energy. If I’ve had a difficult day at school, I come home to Ryan tired and spent, feeling guilty that I’m counting down the hours until it’s bedtime.
F - Fortunate. I wanted to be a teacher, and I am. I wanted to be a mommy, and I am.
G - Games. Children love games, and sometimes playing a game is the best way to reach them. Vocabulary bingo, MadLibs, and multiplication volleyball are some of my teaching techniques. At home, we “race” to see who cleans up the fastest or gets to the dinner table soonest.
H - Hugs. Hugs to comfort and soothe my teething son, a student who is missing her mother, a child (my son or my student) who doesn’t feel well.
I - Influence. A parent is a child’s first teacher. And as a teacher, my students are watching me and listening to me, and not just about the California Missions. They notice what I eat and drink and what I say (lots of “love,” no “hate”). I teach my son and my students by example.
J - Joyful. There is no greater feeling than my son’s arms wrapped around me, his hands patting my back while we hug. Nothing that compares to my son saying, “I love you, Mommy.” There is an exuberance that comes from a student demonstrating growth and progress.
K - Kisses. For my students, it’s kisses on the tops of their heads and air kisses from across the room. For my son, it’s endless kisses, everywhere.
L - Love; it’s the reason why I’m a mother and a teacher. I don’t love everything I have to do. I don’t love meetings or paperwork or nights of teething distress or arguments about bath time. I love who I am doing these things for.
M - Musical. When I taught kindergarten, songs were an integral part of our day. As a fourth grade teacher, I incorporate music as much as I can, including singing the national anthem daily. As the mother of a toddler, singing is a given - “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
N - Natural. I have learned my most important lessons on the job and in the moment. No one taught me how to answer questions about divorce and death in a child’s family. No one taught me the best way to soothe my crying son during a nightmare. The longer I teach and the older my son becomes, I’m relying more on my instincts, trusting myself to do the right thing.
O - Original. What works today, whether I’m teaching equivalent fractions or bathing my son, may not work tomorrow. Children have likes and dislikes, moods, and preferences. Sometimes what I want to do, or what I have to do, simply does not interest them. So, I have to come up with original ideas that convince my kids (both my students and my son) my plan is a great one, one we need to do. Now. That might mean I carry my son upside down to his bath or bring in tortillas and plastic knives to teach equivalent fractions.
P - Privilege. Not everyone has the opportunity to mother a child or hold a teaching position (especially in today’s economy). I know I’m lucky, and I am eternally thankful.
Q - Quiet. Sometimes, I long for quiet. Crave some time when I don’t have children needing anything from me. Then, there are instances when things seem too quiet. While Ryan sleeps I peek in, just to make sure he’s okay. And when my students are testing, the room feels too quiet.
R - Ryan. My son is the center of my life. My desk at school not only houses bulletins and reminders, but framed pictures of my son. His handprints and drawings adorn my kitchen cabinets. And when my students and I are discussing the many spellings for an ending “L” sound (twinkle, hospital, hotel), I naturally share with my class that Ryan’s rendition sounds more like “Twiddle, Twiddle Little Star.”
S - Smile, be silly, and laugh. Laughter is sometimes the only thing that will get us through a tough time. Laughing at how silly mommy is singing and dancing around the kitchen. Laughing at how many times I’ve dropped the same stack of papers at the front of my classroom. Children will be silly. And it’s okay for us all to laugh together.
T - Time, or lack of. I end all school days thinking there were many things I didn’t get to. At home, time is on fast-forward. I get home by 5 and suddenly, it’s 11:00.
U - Understanding. Understanding that my student is distracted by her cousin’s hospitalization, and hugs and patience are what she needs, not another math assignment. Understanding that sometimes my son is going to get upset and frustrated, and I have to give him his space.
V - Very. “ I love you very much,” “I am very proud of you,” and “You tried very hard.” Those sentiments apply to my son trying to zip his own jacket as well as my students trying to master long division.
W - Wearisome. Children are not boring. Sometimes, though, the things they want to do may be. After a while, a mommy can only read Goodnight Moon so many times. But I do it, with a smile on my face, even if I’m mentally composing my grocery list.
X - X’s and O’s, infinitely!
Y - “You.” For my students, it is “you” not me; your responsibility for writing a name on each assignment. For my son, it is “you” not Mommy. Ryan must put his toys away in his toy bin.
Z - Zeal, a synonym for “passion,” “love,” “enthusiasm,” “gusto,” and “intensity”. My aspiration - to mother and teach each day with zeal.